July 2, 2014

Most Americans think the U.S. is great, but fewer say it’s the greatest

A declining percentage of Americans say the U.S. is among the greatest countries in the world.As Americans prepare to celebrate the country’s birthday, a clear majority considers the U.S. to be one of the greatest countries in the world. But the view that the U.S. is exceptional – standing above all other countries in the world – has declined 10 points since 2011.

About three-in-ten (28%) think that the U.S. “stands above all other countries in the world,” while most (58%) say it is “one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others.” Few Americans (12%) say there are other countries in the world “that are better than the U.S.”

Three years ago, 38% said the U.S. stood above all others, while 53% said it was one of the greatest nations and 8% thought some others were better than the U.S.

This data comes from the Pew Research Center’s political typology survey, released June 26. Be sure to take our quiz to see where you fit in the political typology.

The decline in the view that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world has occurred across most demographic and political groups, but it has been particularly acute among Republicans.

Share of Republicans who say the U.S. stands above all other countries in the world has declined sharply.In 2011, 52% of Republicans said the U.S. stood above all other countries in the world, while 43% said it was one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others.

Today, Republicans are 15 points less likely to say the U.S. stands above; 37% say it does, while 55% say the U.S. is one of the greatest countries, along with some others.

Democrats and independents continue to be less likely than Republicans to view the U.S. as exceptional, and fewer say this today than did so in 2011. Currently, about a quarter of Democrats and independents say the U.S. stands above all other countries in the world (down from about a third in 2011).

Still, most Democrats view the U.S. as among the greatest nations in the world: 62% say it shares this status with some others, while 25% say it stands above. Similarly, a 57% majority of independents say the U.S. is one of the greatest, along with others, and an additional 26% say it is exceptional.

Young Americans are least likely to say the U.S. is the greatest country in the world.As was the case three years ago, young people are far less likely than older Americans to say that the U.S. stands above all other nations: Just 15% of those under 30 express that view today, down from 27% three years ago.

Yet the belief that the United States “stands above” other countries has slipped among all age groups since 2011, including among those 65 and older, who remain the most likely to think that the U.S. is superior to all other countries.

Topics: Global Balance of Power, Political Attitudes and Values, U.S. Political Parties

  1. Photo of Alec Tyson

    is a Senior Researcher at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

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55 Comments

  1. blah1 month ago

    Here’s the point of view of a foreigner – this is one of those things that non Americans just cannot comprehend about your country. If you repeat this question in any other country on the planet you wouldn’t get a single person saying that their country is undeniably the best. Most people have travelled to other countries or at least know that their are rubbish things about their country. Yeah, people joke about their country being best. Say the food is best or the football team or whatever. But no one sincerely believes that any country on the planet can objectively be best.

    It’s things like this that make everyone else laugh at Americans for being clueless about the rest of the world. You have no idea how utterly bizarre it sounds to most Europeans for example when an American says that European countries (or Obama who is more right wing than most Euro leaders and so by proxy – euro leaders too) are communist. We just don’t get how anyone can possibly believe this.

    Reply
  2. Luke Murphy2 months ago

    If anything it’s more politically-correct for Americans to have a higher-view of the U.S.’s northerly-neighbor Canada than it is to even be proud to be American!

    Reply
  3. Maria2 months ago

    No country stands above all countries in the world.

    Reply
  4. Explorer Johnson2 months ago

    Travel the world extensively and you’ll find that the USA is hardly the greatest country on Earth. Pretty good? Yes, of course. But not exceptional. Declining educational system, poor infrastructure, a congress that does virtually no work at all, financial corruption at every turn. Still, we’re not horrible. Just OK. That’s it. It is a pity because we had so very much potential. But, that potential seems to be wasted, more and more. But, then, nothing lasts forever and, apparently, that applies to the USA, too.

    Reply
  5. Midnight Krewzer2 months ago

    The founding fathers of this country in the mid-to-late 1700’s embraced a liberal philosophy – liberal freedoms, liberal economics, liberal education, etc. Beyond everything else, they mandated nominal government. Nothing could be further from classical liberal thought than the Modern “Liberalism” of today. The two are polar opposites. Classical liberalism (with a small “L”) addresses the thriving success and prosperity of the person and the community through the free action of individuals. Modern Liberalism (large “L”) is about government deciding what is proper for the individual and imposing its decisions by force. That is precisely what Adam Smith, Thomas Payne, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and all the great classical liberals opposed.

    The slogan of Modern Liberalism is “equality”, meaning NOT equality of opportunity but forced equality of result. In practice, that amounts to efforts by government to impede and obstruct the more energetic and industrious contributors to society so that they don’t reap “unjust rewards” that the less productive don’t enjoy. The goal is not to facilitate economic freedom and progress of the individual. On the contrary, the goal is to bring everyone in line with the severest form of regulation. The inevitable result is the triumph of the lazy, the obtuse and the minimally attentive. This is in keeping with their objective of “trickle up” poverty for everyone. A liberal is someone who likes spending other people’s money for goals he deems worthy. This lust for leveling perpetuates a gripping inefficiency that is damaging to our economy and serves to retard our standard of living. Diversity is on every liberal’s lips but conformity is in every liberal’s heart – and redistribution is on every liberal’s mind.

    Reply
    1. TC2 months ago

      Well said, well said! The founding fathers designed a new nation, conceived in a way never seen before. They designed, believing a sovereign God was looking over their shoulders, so their personal accountability was to an entity far greater than themselves as mere mortals. Too bad the current move to secular humanism and self-worship is eroding that sense of accountability for one’s own choices and actions. Too much concern about “rights” and not enough concern about doing what’s right!

      Reply
    2. JK2 months ago

      You nailed it. Our Socialist leanings under this administration are horrifying. Embracing a culture of entitlement is a slippery slope and we’re on it.

      Reply
    3. Leslie2 months ago

      The founding fathers (and mothers) AND most all the people in the original colonies worked for themselves or with or for a few others. And many were only self-educated by family, work and the local community. Education, travel, contact, influence was very limited during a lifetime.

      There were 2.5 million, 85% immigrants from Europe, Scandinavia.

      How do you propose we return to that situation?

      Take all the time you need to answer. I will be patient and wait for your correspondence to arrive by pony.

      Reply
  6. Dee2 months ago

    Perhaps this reflects some maturing, with a broader understanding of the worth of other nations and peoples. I find it encouraging. God bless America- keep growing up!

    Reply
    1. Leslie2 months ago

      Thank you. We need to hear that more than ever.

      Reply
  7. dude2 months ago

    I’m glad to see that people are finally beginning to understand just how unexceptional America is and always has been. Nationalism is a virus and should not be promoted. A realistic understanding of one’s country is more befitting of a patriot anyway.

    Reply
    1. blah1 month ago

      Nationalism means something different in America to what it means in every other country. In ever other country it means being proud of your country despite it’s faults. No one outside of America genuinely believes that their country is the best in the world.

      Reply
  8. Guy Guerrero2 months ago

    Republicans are unhappy with America, because it elected a black president twice.

    Reply
  9. Guy Guerrero2 months ago

    Maybe after Obama leaves office, the Republicans will once again think that America is the greatest nation on earth. The Republicans have only one issue with the president and that is because he is black.

    Guy M. Guerero
    Burlingame, CA

    Reply
    1. TC2 months ago

      Nonsense. You elected a man from nowhere with little life experience, vague credentials and few accomplishments of any note, as close to a “Manchurian Candidate” as could be. How did he come from nowhere to defeat the Clinton political machine? Many of you voted for him because he is black (so did 95% of blacks) to show you were a “progressive” thinker. Is America better off after 6 years of Obamanation, following 8 years of “W”??? No way, not by any measure. Look around, be realistic.

      Reply
      1. NB2 months ago

        African-Americans have voted Democrat at 85-95% rates for at least half a century. It has little to do with the colour of his skin. The Democrats’ support of egalitarian & populist policies attracted them long before Obama even entered politics.

        Reply
      2. Leslie2 months ago

        “Yet the belief that the United States “stands above” other countries has slipped among all age groups since 2011, including among those 65 and older, who remain the most likely to think that the U.S. is superior to all other countries.”

        65 in a few months, with as much hope and determination as ever.

        Reply
  10. RonKH2 months ago

    After six years of Obama, how could anyone think that America is stronger and more involved in the world? No one with intelligence.

    It’s sad to see that the drop in “favorable” ratings throughout the world show a similar decline. That is why our enemies are so emboldened.

    Reply
    1. Leslie2 months ago

      Do not mistake fear for intelligence.

      Reply
  11. lindsncal2 months ago

    There have been many international polls about happiness of citizens and quality of life based on many things.
    In every one, America is down the list. The only thing I’ve found that we’re considered number one in is convenience. We can buy a hot dog or a broom at 3AM. We are also number one in the number of people who believe in angels.

    Reply
    1. slk2 months ago

      Thank God!!!

      Reply
    2. Sooner2 months ago

      The decline in America started with the wal-marting of the country and Reaganomics some 30 plus years ago. America lost it’s charm after wal-mart came along and destroyed main street across the nation. Couple that with the religious right tea-party and corporate take over of the country I see not much hope for our future. If I was living abroad looking in I would be very concerned about the current happenings here in the U.S.

      Reply
      1. slk2 months ago

        and yet, you haven’t moved to wonderful venezuela!!!

        Reply
    3. Leslie2 months ago

      You’ve written the most beautiful description of what this is all about.

      Reply
  12. Steve2 months ago

    Being hyper-patriotic is like parents who believe their child is the smartest and most beautiful in the world. No one can, or has to be, the best at everything to be worthwhile. America is a great nation but so are many others. In fact, many countries surpass the US at education, health care, economic opportunity, social welfare, personal well-being, creativity and happiness, just to name a few. Sadly, the US has become a nation of very self-centered people, many of whom are willing to step on others to get what they want. The ever widening gap between the haves and the hard-working have nots does not bode well for our future.

    Reply
    1. slk2 months ago

      the hard working have not’s??? if you grow up, and don’t do anything to make you a better skilled person, have a big family, then yes, flip your burgers and whine!!! you have a brain, use it!!! minimum wage is for the younger, or retired!!!

      Reply
      1. dude2 months ago

        this is such a backwards comment. most people who work for minimum wage are people supporting families. not everyone has parents who can afford to send them to college and the like, so people do what they have to in order to feed their families. they don’t need people like you piling ill-informed expectations on them because the right has told you to hate the poor.

        Reply
    2. Frank2 months ago

      Steve, appreciated your comments: spot on.

      Reply
  13. Millie2 months ago

    America is the greatest! We’re else do you get freedom of speech?

    Reply
    1. lindsncal2 months ago

      Huh?
      The answer: every other developed country in the world.

      Reply
      1. slk2 months ago

        huh??? developed??? please list the developed countries, or what you think are developed!!! just to name one…china!!!

        Reply
        1. Paul Rubi2 months ago

          United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Finland, Japan, Australia…is this a big enough list for you or should go on. Your ignorance of the world around is an example of how poorly educated Americans are…and that is one of the biggest reasons that America is not an exceptional nation. You know not of what you speak. Typical American.

          Reply
        2. Explorer Johnson2 months ago

          @ slk: have you ever even travelled out in the world at all?

          Reply
          1. slk2 months ago

            explorer – there are many “developed” countries, where you can’t say much!!! china is developed, yet sociaslism reigns!!! “no freedom of speech”!!!

    2. ddunn12492 months ago

      How about France, England, Ireland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, and the list goes on?

      Reply
    3. slk2 months ago

      millie – America “is” the greatest!!! these socialists, won’t be happy, until the USA turns into the ussa!!!

      Reply
  14. Denise2 months ago

    I can understand why the thought of the US as “exceptional” is declining. I believe that this current administration has done everything it can to promote the idea that the United States Is nothing special. I am rational about exceptionalism, however, I question where a lot of the other countries of the world would be if it weren’t for the US being the greatest nation in the world. It is a shame that those below 30 years of age don’t think of the US as standing tall! What will the opinion be in another 20 or 30 years!

    Reply
    1. lindsncal2 months ago

      “I believe that this current administration has done everything it can to promote the idea that the United States Is nothing special.”

      How inaccurate. When Obama talks about us not having the safety nets for the poor and our extreme wealth disparity which is the worst in the developed world, and now having the worst chance of upward mobility, and our low wages compared to the rest of the world and our lack of worker rights, etc, he is trying to tell you what we need to fix.
      If you prefer to believe that that means he’s not standing up for the country than you need to rethink that stance because he’s saying just the opposite.
      Do yourself a favor. Look up any international poll about quality of life or happiness and you might understand what he’s telling you. To ignore our problems and just keep yelling that we’re the best, is to ignore the truth.

      Reply
      1. slk2 months ago

        “how inaccurate”??? when you do nothing to make yourself better equiped for life, you will not make it!!! so take your unskilled body, make a large family, and whine about taking a teenagers job flipping burgers, or you can use your brain, to give yourself, a better chance to make it big!!! and then again, sit there and deceive the government into giving you something for nothing, and vote socialist!!!

        Reply
        1. Midnight Krewzer2 months ago

          AMEN!!!

          Reply
      2. Frank2 months ago

        linsncal,
        “To ignore our problems and just keep yelling that we’re the best, is to ignore the truth”. Amen.

        Reply
    2. Guy Guerrero2 months ago

      BRAVO!

      Reply
    3. Paul Rubi2 months ago

      The United States is nothing special because it does not have an exceptional congress. The decline in America is the fault of Americans because of the people they vote to represent them. Congress passes the laws for the president to sign. If Congress make abhorrent laws then we shall have an abhorrent nation. Who you vote for in Congress is your responsibility for the nation that we are…and our congress is horrible thus the country is horrible.

      Reply
    4. blah1 month ago

      Most people in other countries are proud of their country standing tall. But even the most patriotic non Americans would say that their country is merely “great” – no one outside America is sufficiently extreme to say that any country can be objectively “best”. That is a uniquely American phenomenon and it goes way beyond healthy patriotism into the realm of delusion.

      Reply
  15. Jack2 months ago

    TOPICS: GLOBAL BALANCE OF POWER, POLITICAL ATTITUDES AND VALUES, U.S. POLITICAL PARTIES How can you base a survey on this criteria, when 60% of the people you are asking don’t even know their local and state officials? That is, if you are even asking them. Are you more likely to be asking those already in power and in places like D.C.?

    Reply
  16. Pilgrim 16202 months ago

    It would be interesting to compare the responses from 5 to 10 years ago.along with these. Our educational system has minimized the teaching of American history, civics and the Constitution under increasingly liberal teachers and professors. As a friend of mine who is Lebanese told me “You’ve had it too good for too long.”
    No one asks the question “Why have we had it so good?” We not only provided troops but virtually all of the tools of war that defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. When it was over we rebuilt the AXIS countries. That is a first in the history of the world! Conquerors looted the losers before that!
    And what have we gotten back for our largesse? The scorn of those that we resurrected and their socialistic bent. What made us great WAS NOT “collectivism” but individual effort and freedom. Now our youth have been told by their educators that the legacy of slavery is still our national burden, our mores of personal responsibility and accountability are outdated and that the redistribution of wealth (that has failed so miserably in the rest of the world) is the way of the future.
    Our international charity knows no bounds but our naive youth questions the motives at every turn. We have fallen because of the socialistic policies of this administration. Time to return to greatness!

    Reply
    1. slk2 months ago

      well said!!!

      Reply
    2. Paul Rubi2 months ago

      The country is run by rich Republicans. They are at fault. Stop blaming liberals for the bad government you have voted for…it is Republicans who are creating the decline in education–not liberals.

      Reply
      1. slk2 months ago

        who actually goes to bama’s 50,000 a plate fund raisers???

        Reply
  17. Packard Day2 months ago

    I am dumbfounded, although not particularly surprised at the results of this latest Pew Research poll. We live in an age where both our twice elected President and his wife exude a sense of…oh, I don’t know the word for it (je ne sais quoi?)…but it certainly is not the possession of a personal pride in America or any sense of deep appreciation for what this country had done for them, their fellow countrymen, and the rest of the world.

    Why would anyone be greatly surprised that the entire country is now following President and Mrs. Obama’s lead toward that sort of sentiment?

    Reply
    1. Patrick Moore2 months ago

      I’m not dumbfounded at all. And It has nothing to do with the president’s attitude; still less his wife’s. President Obama is, I am sure, every bit as proud of America as you are, and as I am.

      It has to do with the undeniable fact that America is no longer reliably “the good guys.” Americans, along with the rest of the world, correctly see, for example, the invasion of Iraq as unjustified and misguided, and productive of nothing but strife and death. We had a president who actively promoted torture of prisoners. We have a dysfunctional legislature with members who are actually elected actually announcing that they will not compromise — an attitude which, if it had been held by the founders of the republic, would have resulted in a still-born country even after the blood and suffering (to steal a phrase) of the revolution. We are just about the last country on the planet other than Iran, North Korea and China who still carry out the death penalty. And on and on.

      America of course has done and continues to do a lot of good in many ways. I believe that these survey results show, however, that Americans realize that our country is no longer some sort of paragon of virtue, if it ever was. And Americans realize that other countries are doing good in the world as well. When we were rebuilding Europe through the Marshall Plan, to pick just one example, we were America at its best. When we whine now that the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate all that we’ve done for it, we come across as whiny, petulant, and unworthy of respect.

      You obviously want to hang it all on Obama, which is manifestly mistaken. I’m not a particular fan of his, but least he’s stopped the torture and is getting us out of Iraq and is trying to provide at least minimal health care for citizens.

      Reply
      1. DK Southern2 months ago

        Patrick Moore,

        Well put. I’ll go even further and state that an attitude of exceptionalism is dangerous for the longevity of any group of people, be it ethnic, nationalistic, or even a sports group. When you embrace the idea that you, and those like you, are better than other people, arrogance is sure to follow, and any edge you may have had will rapidly disappear. In most cases, when I’ve heard individuals claim American Exceptionalism”, what they’re really reaching for is “Americans are exceptional. I am an American, so therefore, I am exceptional, and I demand to be seen and treated that way”, and that’s when the danger comes in.

        Reply
      2. slk2 months ago

        i moved here in ’51, and i’ve been a proud citizen of this great country ever since!!! we were not happy in the soviet controlled czechoslovakia, and moved here, and yet, you’re not happy, your professor is not happy, and still you stay!!! why go through the agony of being a proud American…i am!!!

        Reply
        1. Explorer Johnson2 months ago

          I’ve been to the Czech Republic twice in the past three years. A marvelous country! Wonderful people. Capitalism is very alive and well throughout the country. Excellent infrastructure, wonderful culture, terrific entertainment and nightlife. A very good medical care system. Your viewpoints are rooted in a distant past that no longer exists. Get out and travel the world. See the marvelous things that are going on around the planet. The USA is pretty good but not great.

          Reply
          1. slk2 months ago

            i agree, the czech republic, is a marvelous capitalistic nation!!! and now fools here, are trying to bring socialism here!!! it’s never worked in the past, present and never will in the future!!! there’s just not enough of other peoples money!!!